During the last class you talked about inner void. What did you mean by this ‘contemplation’ of the inner void? Inner void is painful and inclined towards negativity; full of contradictory and confusing issues. Why approach it? And how?
I understand what you say, that there seems to be a void inside, but I actually never talked about an inner void, since I really don’t think there is one. What I believe exists is a misapprehension of what ‘inside’ actually means.
There is no inner void. What there is, on the one side, are thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions and, on the other, the presence or awareness that is aware of them. That is all.
Yes, thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions are four words that include a huge variety of possibilities. There are memories that can be felt or expressed as thoughts, emotions or sensations. Most of these memories are personal, but there are also ‘universal’ memories, what can be referred to as the ‘collective unconscious’. There are happy memories, repressed memories, painful memories. There are memories closer to the conscious mind or further away from it.
There are hopes, ideas, fears, wishes, desires and other stuff I cannot think of right now, but all of these will fit into the category of thoughts, emotions, sensations or perceptions.
Fears and desires could have been born in childhood or, according to eastern traditions, in previous lifetimes. But it really does not matter because, either way, they are hidden from our conscious mind and most probably we have no idea we have them.
All of our suffering is a combination of a particular point of view (a thought), which very probably created an emotion and a sensation that will support and reinforce it. And at the very essence of that thought lies some kind of conclusion like: ‘I am a person that deserves more’ or ‘I have been hurt’ or ‘They don’t love me’ or ‘I am not what is expected of me’ or ‘I am afraid of disappearing’. There can be different combinations, but it’s always something related to love and death.
At the very root of these thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions is the belief that I am the thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions. The only thing that is missing in this picture of ‘me’ is the body. What I think I am is the body, which has thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions. This body with thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions has a name, in my case Carlos, in your case Ana, and this is what I think I am.
There is also an awareness that is aware of the body, the thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions. Most people believe that this awareness is a product of the mind, which in turn is a product of the body. The general, materialistic belief is that out of a sperm that fecundated an egg a body was born, which, in time, started to grow, developed the organs including the brain, and out of the brain — when the body was quite complete — the awareness appeared (and this belief exists, even if we have never thought about it!).
But what I am teaching is that this awareness is not a part, product or property of the body-mind. That this awareness is an independent entity that gives sentiency (life) to the body-mind. That this awareness was there before the body was born, and will remain after the body goes. That this awareness is not affected by the thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions that appear in the body-mind. That this awareness is what we really are, it is what we refer to when we say ‘I’ and that it is what is looking through our eyes, hearing through our ears and experiencing our experience right now.
And so, when I say in class that we should pay attention inside, or as you well say, ‘contemplate’, I mean it in two different ways:
1) First of all, stop running away from our thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions and notice them. As you say, it is true that there can be a lot of pain and confusion and contradictions in them, but we need to deeply understand that whatever is avoided is actually prolonged; whatever we resist actually persists.
When we run away from the pain, confusion and contradictions we find inside we make them stronger, we give them life, we make them real. But they are not. They are only INNOCENT misunderstandings. Behind all these pains and confusions and contradictions is a ‘small child’ that wants to be respected, recognized, to have some guidelines or directions, to be accepted, to be loved. He/she wants to be happy, in peace.
But this ‘child’, with his/her ideas of himself/herself can never be that (other than for a few short moments when life happens to be in harmony with his/her hopes and desires). This child he/she imagines to be is only a mental construction, a buildup of thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions that were given a form and an identity, what we call ‘the story of my life’. We are not that story, but the awareness that is aware of the story.
And so, by ‘going inside’ I mean to start to be aware of those thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions and discover, in time, that the suffering is only a misunderstanding, a misconstruction, a wrong point of view. This of course is not something that happens quickly. It takes time, and dedication, and a lot of understanding.
Now, when we start to discover the unreality of ‘the story of my life’ (or simply when out of the blue we are given a vision of the unreality of that ‘story’ – like it happens when we have a brush with death) a painful and unpleasant sensation of void and emptiness may appear. But this void is only something that appears when we look at life from the point of view of the body-mind. Instead, we need to learn to look at life — to look at ourselves — from the point of view of Presence.
2) At the same time as we become aware of our thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions, going inside means to little by little start to discover this awareness, this Presence that is always there, always aware/present, but that we overlooked by being so busy with the stuff our thoughts, emotions, sensations and perceptions are always pointing to – the stuff we call the outside world.
Going inside is like taking the blue pill that Neo took in the movie The Matrix in order to discover the truth of what we really are. There is no void in that truth. Only beautiful, peaceful, eternally complete aliveness.
Of course this is only a very basic overview of a very large and complex work of discovering truth. But this work starts right now by being aware, being more present to this very moment right now.